NOTICE - SHARE - INVITE
This article is being prepared right on the heels of the reading of the Gospel of John’s account of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. What surprises us here is that the Gospel doesn’t actually tell the story of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist but rather has John the Baptist sharing his experience at Jesus’ baptism. In other words, John gives a testimony about what he saw happen when he baptized Jesus.
John saw the dove descend upon Jesus and he tells others what he saw and what he thinks it means: that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That’s all. He shared what he had seen. Andrew later does the same. He simply, probably excitedly, tells his brother that he had found (seen) the Messiah and invites Peter to come along and see for himself. Jesus does the same thing when he invites the followers of John to “come and see” where he is staying.
In his discussion of this passage, Dr. David Lose, a professor at Luther Seminary, summarizes it this way: Evangelism is nothing more than: noticing what God is doing in our lives, sharing that with others, and inviting them to come and see for themselves. Notice, share and invite are the steps to effective, authentic outreach to others of the grace of God that is ours in Jesus Christ. So, let’s put some meat on those bones from our experience!
Notice: At our P.L.U.M. board meeting in January each congregation was given the opportunity to share where they have seen God’s presence in their congregation, the world and in each other. We heard several stories that inspired our own reflection on that question. One place where we could physically see God’s good work in our midst was in our PLUM Pastoral Activities report for 2013, of all places! Viewing our PLUM cooperative as one big church made up of roughly 400 people with 9 worship sites or mission fields in 2013, we collectively had:
This means that of the 400 people we have actively involved in our ministries we had 44 (over 10%) others join our ranks. We had 11 others (those who were confirmed and those receiving their 1st Communion) reach a place in their lives where their faith walk has taken them to a new level of awareness and growth. We had 12 couples return and reaffirm the church’s importance in their lives on their wedding day and we celebrated the faithful lives of 112 others. These events were made possible because we are working together. And that’s not all! There is so much more going on in each of our congregations: hundreds of meals that have been served, thousands of dollars have been spent locally as well as nationally and internationally to support other ministries sharing Christ’s mission, food has been collected and distributed to those in crisis, and the list goes on! Another example was Pastor Blair Morgan, the Director of Evangelical Mission with our Synod, reporting that members of our PLUM congregations made up 1/3 of the people taking advantage of the Synod’s evangelism training event “Front Porchin’” last November! Not only that, but those attending brought back ideas to their congregations and began to implement them! All of these activities that has touched the lives of so many people show God at work through PLUM’s ministry. They are all wonderful examples of the “Notice” part of evangelism.
Share: This is such a hard area for many of us - the thought of opening ourselves up and sharing our faith is scary. We pastors have seen a lot of growth in this area among our people as we go about our ministry together. We celebrate and commend that growth and encourage all of our people to practice, practice, practice ways of sharing your faith with others. To that end we are planning to invite outside speakers to come to our 2014 PLUM Lenten Study Series and speak to us about ways in which we can better share our faith in four areas of our ministry: education, evangelism, youth ministry, and service. On the Sundays of Lent (March 9, 16, 23, 30 & April 6), we will gather from 3-5 pm in a different church each week and will explore the following areas of ministry:
Christian Education – How do we maintain this essential ministry with small numbers? What can energize our teachers and students as we seek to share our faith around God’s Word?
Front Porchin’ – We learned so much from our first experience with Pastor Jake Jacobson (the author of “Front Porchin’”), that we’re inviting him back to talk specifically about evangelism in the small congregational setting.
Youth / Young Adult Ministry - creative outreach with our young people and those beyond our doors. We know they are out there! Let’s learn from others who work with youth how we can be more effective in sharing our faith with those of all ages who see the church as irrelevant and out of touch!
Mission Trips for adults and youth – Mission trips are a wonderful way of building relationships while giving our people the experience of serving others in Jesus’ name. What goes into organizing a mission trip experience that is valuable both for those served and those doing the serving?
At our last meeting we will take all that we have learned and discuss which ideas make the most sense for our individual congregations, what can we tackle both individually and collectively and how to get things going. The aim here is to learn together some creative ways to share our faith with others.
Invite: This may seem the hardest task of all and yet inviting people to activities and events that we are excited about is something we do all the time. As we work together on the challenges of ministering in today’s world, we will reflect on and discuss what it is about our congregations that brings us through the doors Sunday mornings, what challenges we are facing together, what good ministry is going on that provides us with a true sense of purpose as God’s faithful people. Then, our task is simple, because we’ll want to talk about the good things going on in our congregations and we’ll find that we can’t help but invite people to “come and see” what God is accomplishing in our midst.
So, mark your calendars and “Come and See” during the Sundays in Lent as we celebrate and explore the many great things the Lord has planned for us.
God’s Peace, See you in church.
Pastors Melba, Beth, John and Paul
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600